The nation’s largest healthcare corporations gave at least $61 million directly to political campaigns, nonprofits, ballot initiatives, and trade associations during 2017, according to a MapLight analysis of newly released data.


A pro-Issue 2 organization asked the Ohio Elections Commission to investigate the PhRMA Ohio Initiative Fund for failing to register as a political action committee, calling it “a dark money laundering scheme to keep making obscene profits at the expense of sick and suffering patients.” The complaint was dismissed by the regulators.

Biogen also gave $240,000 in 2017 to an organization described as the “PhRMA California Ballot Initiative.” California voters defeated Proposition 61 in 2016, a measure that was similar to the Ohio initiative.

Other measures influenced by corporate cash included $100,000 from Cerner Corp., a Kansas City, Missouri-based electronic health records company that boosted the successful effort to persuade voters to approve a $1.64 billion terminal at the Kansas City International Airport, and $30,000 contributions by Cigna and UnitedHealth Group to battle an unsuccessful attempt to create a universal healthcare system in California.

Three healthcare corporations accounted for almost half of all contributions given to 527 groups, or nonprofit organizations that are allowed to engage in political activity but required to disclose the identities of their donors. Anthem Inc., the Indianapolis-based health insurer, gave almost $1.6 million of its $5.5 million in political donations to the nonprofits. The Republican Governors Association (RGA) was the largest recipient, taking in $600,000 from the insurer. The Democratic Governors Association (DGA) received $425,000.

Anthem also gave $40,500 to four Colorado nonprofits. Almost 80 percent of Colorado voters cast ballots in 2016 opposing an unsuccessful initiative that would have created a universal healthcare system for the state. It gave another $10,000 each to the California Vote Project, a Democratic voter registration initiative; California Trailblazers, an effort to groom Republican candidates for state positions; and Californians for High Quality and Affordable Health Care, a nonprofit sponsored by California health insurers.

Pfizer, the New York City-based drug manufacturer, gave $1.1 million to 527 organizations, including $550,000 to the Democratic Governors Association and $250,000 to the GOP counterpart. Like Anthem, it contributed to Colorado nonprofits, donating $15,000 to three organizations. The Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group gave $593,000 to the nonprofits, including $300,00 to the RGA and $200,000 to the DGA.